A ghost story is a form of supernatural fiction, and is often a horror story. Ghosts often are the primary characters of the story and are usually presented with a background to create an element of mystery. Although ghost stories are mainly written to scare the reader, they can be written to serve all sorts of purposes, from comical to morality tales. Ghost stories may also feature hauntings of ghosts or spirits.
Some ghost stories are often horror stories written to scare the reader, with a plot which revolves around a spirit and with the elements of guts, blood and escalating levels of fright, which are only mainly existent in horror stories. Horror stories involve the characters feeling escalating levels of fright. The reader identifies with the gradual feeling of dread and begins to feel the same. Horror stories do not have ghosts in them; they simply trigger some sort of fear response to the readers fear.
The reader also generates their imagination to create some horrifying characters that truly scare. Ghost stories use ghosts in them to make them scary. The plot, which is revolved around the ghost in the story, often creates an element of mystery to what the ghost may want. A tale too outlandish is not a fine ghost story; neither is one of whose mysteries can be fully explained in the light of day. Ghosts may scare the reader as they are something that science cannot explain or understand.
Nobody knows why or how ghosts exist in our world which contributes to the fear factor in ghost stories. Most ghost stories originate in the distant past, like the Shakespearian times. Telling ghost stories is an American phenomenon. Ghost stories have been around for centuries and are to stay around for centuries to come. “Laura” by Saki. (H. H. Munro) Summary of ‘Laura’: This short story is witty and fast-moving. The central character Laura is dying, and is talking to her friend, Amanda, about reincarnation.
Here Saki not only displays his unique wit, but also touches on elements of religion. Reincarnation could be seen as a rather scandalous idea in his day, yet by writing about it in an utterly British way, with wit rather than fervour, he makes it seem possible. Laura proclaims to Amanda that she would probably reincarnate into a lower organism, having been ‘mean and vindictive’ – especially to Amandas husband, Egbert. She suggests she may return as something lovely and playful, such as an otter.
Then she says if she is a good otter she might return in human form, probably ‘a little brown, unclothed Nubian boy… ‘ Her friend Amanda rather laughs off Laura’s unorthodox ideas, but Laura is not bothered in fact, she inconveniences everyone by dying one day early. Immediately, an otter appears on the estate where Amanda lives with her husband, killing four of his ‘speckled Sussex’ and destroying his flower beds. The following Sunday, the same otter raids the larder, leaving bits of salmon on Egberts ‘Persian rug’. Egbert resolves to set the hounds on the otter which kill it.
Amanda becomes later distraught when her friend and neighbour, Aurora Burret comments on how human the otter’s eyes looked before it died. Amanda, ‘who was one of those who shaped their opinions rather readily from the standpoint of those around them,’ became rather ill and was taken abroad by Egbert to recuperate. Whilst in Egypt, from in Egberts dressing room issued ‘a hurricane of shouted curses’. Amanda, with ‘amused curiosity’ asked what was wrong. Egbert announces that all of his clothes had been thrown in the bathtub by a ‘little beast of a naked Nubian boy’
The story ends with ‘And now Amanda is seriously ill’. As well as the story being light hearted and humorous Saki also raises deeper questions about life after death, intelligence, precognition and existence. He does not dwell on these subjects but merely raises them for speculation in the readers’ minds. He teases with them, encouraging the reader to think for themselves. Describe in what ways this is an unconventional ghost story: Laura is an unconventional ghost story. Laura does not conform to the gothic style as it does not have the genre that combines horror and romance.
This story has been written to humour the reader and this is evident in the lack of the usual element – a ghost. The lack of this element and the elements of darkness, murder, bloodshed etc. make this an unconventional ghost story and this adds to the overall comic tone of the story. In gothic literature the dark, murky weather exists as an inseparable part, whereas in ‘Laura’ the weather is hardly mentioned, which also contributes to the light-hearted tone. I would describe the overall tone as light-hearted and comical as the story was written mainly to mock the upper class society.
The fact that the typical ghostly settings, dark, dull weather, evil presence and ghosts are non existent in ‘Laura’ contributes to the overall purpose of the text and the overall tone of the story. What evidence is there to suggest Saki wrote this story as a playful, satirical attack on Edwardian upper-class values? : The purpose of the text Laura is to mock the upper class Edwardian society. The story is narrated in third person, limiting the point of view. Most of the characters beliefs and thoughts are meant to be implied by their speech; here Saki displays his unique wit.
We are to assume characters’ personalities through their word choice, we learn a lot about the character Amanda, who if followed throughout the story. Firstly, the stark contrast in Laura and Amanda’s reactions to Laura’s impending death puts emphasis on the way the Edwardian Society think and behave. Amanda who is portrayed as ‘one of those who shaped their opinions rather readily from the standpoint of those around them’ reacts in a serious manner and shrugs off Laura’s unorthodox ways of thinking when Laura talks about reincarnation.
One way to look at this is the upper class are sheep, they follow the crowd. Amanda’s reaction may also imply that Amanda is afraid to die as she is so involved in her life, she doesn’t want to leave her social activities behind. At the time of Lauras death, Amanda complains at how ‘dreadfully upsetting’ it is for Laura to die at the time when she ‘asked a lot of friends down for golf and fishing and the rhododendrons are looking their best’. Amanda seems to be far more upset about her having to cancel her social activities rather than her friend, Laura’s death.
This adds new elements to Amanda’s character, which are selfishness, inconsiderate and maybe even cold-hearted. The reader begins to ponder whether all of the upper class society is the type to behave in such a manner. Sir Lulworth, Amanda’s uncle, further contributes to the undesirable image the reader builds up in their mind, with the comments he makes about Laura. Sir Lulworth talks about how ‘inconsiderate’ Laura had been ‘born during Goodwood week, with an Ambassador staying in the house who hated babies’, this also implies Sir Lulworth may have known Laura since she was born, they could even be related.
Sir Lulworth seems to like to analyse situations, but never too far. Although he will question and point out what comes from his thinking, he does not seem to like to think about certain topics such as life after death. This is evident when Amanda asks him if he thinks Laura has been passed into animal form, he stays silent and does not reply. During this short story each time Laura reappears in different forms she always comes back with intentions of torturing Egbert but in a playful and mischievous way.
Lauras actions are justified to the reader who have the impression that Laura is not the typical ‘snobby’ upper class citizen, she lives life to the fullest and does not obey the accepted way of doing things of her time, in a way Laura could be looked at as a reflection of the reader as her ways of thinking and behaving etc are modern and remain uninfluenced by the upper class, she is capable of making up her own mind. The readers’ sympathy does not lie with Egbert who is described by Laura as ‘peevish’.
Egbert is married to Amanda and is devoted to poultry and his garden. Needless to say he runs a farm with sorts and seems quite happy with Laura’s death. Laura obviously knows what Egbert loves most and each time sets out to destroy his flower beds or kill his ‘Speckled Sussex’. Lauras decision to come back as a ‘Nubian boy’ was intended by Saki to mock colonialism, the policy of acquiring and keeping colonies. “To Be Taken With A Grain Of Salt” by Charles Dickens Describe what happens in the first part of the story:
The narrator, whose name isn’t mentioned, is a bachelor who works in a bank. One morning on his way to work, the narrator sees two men, one behind the other. ‘The foremost man often looked back over his shoulder. The second man followed him at a distance of some thirty paces, with his right hand menacingly raised. ‘ It is as though the second man was threatening the first man. As the two men passed by the window, the narrator was looking through; they both stared up at him.
The narrator comments ‘I saw their two faces very distinctly and I knew that I could recognise them anywhere,’ obviously the two men left quite an impression on the narrator who points out how the first of the two men had an ‘unusually lowering appearance’ and he also describes the face of the second of the two men as ‘the colour of impure wax’. This is the first time that the narrator sees the two men, seeing the two men leaves the narrator uneasy and pondering about who they possibly could be.
A few days after the narrator’s first sighting of the two men, one late evening he was standing in his bedroom giving directions to his servant, John Derrick. His face was towards the only dressing room door which was closed. His servant had his back to the door. While the narrator was speaking to his servant the dressing room door opened; a man looked in and ‘beckoned’ to the narrator. The narrator instantly recognises the man who was beckoning, as he was second of the two men walking along Piccadilly, the man with the face ‘the colour of impure wax’.
Casually, after beckoning, the figure disappears inside the dressing room, closing the door. The narrator walks past his bedroom and opens the door with a lightened candle in his hand. The narrator at this point had no expectations of finding the figure in his dressing room and was not surprised to find no figure in his dressing room. The narrator then turns around to see his servant ‘stood amazed’. As the narrator lays hand on his servant’s breast he realises the startling change in him. The servant ‘trembling violently’ says, “O Lord, yes, sir!
A dead man beckoning,” this adds to the feeling of supernatural in the story and by now the reader begins to raise questions such as: What does the man want? This suspense device used by Charles Dickens leaves the reader hanging on edge and eager to read on out of curiosity. It is also important to note that the servant felt the presence of the figure and knew what had happened even though he had his back to the door the whole time. The night after the incident the narrator sleeps uneasy and is eventually awoken in the morning by his servant, who has a letter in his hand.
The letter summons the narrator ‘to serve upon a jury at the forthcoming sessions at the Old Bailey. ‘ For a day or two the narrator seems to be in two minds about whether he wants to attend the sessions or not. Finally, the narrator decides to go to the trials ‘as a break in the monotony’ of his life. What effect does Dickens’ use of gothic elements of atmospheric description before the trial have? : Before the trial starts Dickens uses elements of darkness, dullness etc which you would normally associate with murder.
The narrator describes there being ‘a dense brown fog in Piccadilly’ on ‘the appointed morning’. When the narrator arrives at the court, as he takes his ‘seat in the place appropriated to jurors in waiting. ‘ he describes the atmosphere inside the court to be the same as the weather at Piccadilly. He says, ‘I looked around the court as well as I could through the cloud of fog’. Cleverly the weather at Piccadilly is associated with the atmosphere inside the court using a simile. This sets the mood so the reader distinguishes a mental image of the atmosphere inside the court.
As the narrator looks around the court he also notices ‘the black vapour hanging like a murky curtain outside the great windows’. Pathetic fallacy is used here; the weather completely changes the mood of the text and also helps to build up suspense to what may happen at the trial. Yet again Dickens uses techniques which make the reader unable to stop reading at this point. Describe some of the ways in which the ghost intervenes during the trial: The ghost intervenes during the trial numerous times.
The first intervention was on the second day of the trial. The narrator had been made ‘foreman of the jury’ and as he counted his ‘brother-jurymen’ he ‘found an inexplicable difficulty’. He counted several times but each time he did he ‘made them one too many’. To reassure himself he asks his ‘brother-juryman’ whose place was next to him to count instead. Hearing this request the man ‘looked surprised, but turned his head and counted’. Even this man was faced with the same difficulty of counting one extra.